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A common dilemma facing many companies that have a ton of gear in their data centers is having to figure out which hardware appliance is causing bottlenecks that may cause downtime and customer outrage. Coolan, a startup formed by former Facebook and Google engineers, aims to solve this problem and is exiting stealth with a new product that gathers together infrastructure data from multiple companies, which it then analyzes to unearth how all their gear is performing.
That strength-by-numbers approach separates Coolan from other IT monitoring services out there that companies plug into their data centers to discover how efficient (or not) their infrastructure really is so they can spot problems before they turn to something bigger.
Although these IT monitoring services essentially study the infrastructure of one company, Coolan’s software platform allows other entities to share their infrastructure data with each other in the hopes that, with more data available, organizations can put an end to unnecessary server failures and the like.
“[Organizations] are all curious about solving this problem, but they have a limited data set,” said Coolan co-founder and CEO Amir Michael. “By bringing the industry together you get a larger data set.”
Michael was a a hardware engineer at [company]Google[/company] and then a Facebook engineer and manager of the company’s hardware design. At [company]Facebook[/company], Michael’s contributions led to the creation of the Open Compute Project, where he is is still an active participant as vice-chair of the project’s Incubation Committee, responsible for reviewing new specifications.
The open compute project did a good job of getting people to talk about servers and design concepts from a hardware level, Michael said. However, when it comes to operations and getting the most out of hardware, there’s not a lot of information available to the general public on the actual performance metrics of individual pieces of hardware.
“We all want more transparency around our hardware,” Michael said.
The idea is for companies big and small, with 100 servers or 1,000 servers, to all benefit from the insights gleaned from the same big data set. Companies will have to install software (three lines of code, apparently) onto their fleet of servers, which will allow for infrastructure data to flow over to Coolan’s own servers, stored in Amazon S3.
Michael seemed aware of the irony that his startup that specializes in hardware-performance metrics operates in the cloud, but he said that “we will eat our own dog food and be running our own servers” once it reaches a certain size.
Coolan will not be syphoning the type of software-related data that New Relic or AppDynamics need for their analytics purposes, but rather hardware data, like the name of a device manufacturer, the temperature of the hardware when running, the model number of an appliance, when the device started generating errors, and so on.
From all this data, Coolan’s team can run machine-learning algorithms to learn how the hardware stacks up and which devices have a higher chance of failure. If a bunch of companies that contribute to Coolan all find that a fan in a particular manufacturer’s device cracks out at the two-year mark, then users who recently purchased that device will now have some warning that their devices might not function properly down the road.
Coolan’s not ready to disclose who its pilot customers are, but Michael did say that a number of the company’s clients are organizations that started out in the cloud and are now moving off of it to build their own data centers.
The startup could one day have a tool that also monitors a company’s cloud infrastructure, but Michael said that’s “not the primary focus right now.” Coolan is also still figuring out its pricing model, but its main goal as of now is to simply get more companies on board to “get more data.”
“I think part of it is in my DNA,” said Michael in reference to how his days at Facebook could have made him more open to the idea of sharing and collaborative projects. Facebook recently launched a collaborative threat-detection framework that seems similar to Coolan except instead of hardware data, companies are dumping into a central hub security data.
The six-person team at Coolan is not disclosing how much funding it has raised so far, but it closed a seed round in February led by Social + Capital, North Bridge Venture Partners and Keshif Ventures.